Remembering together, safely: Hospice of Kona’s ‘Circle of Remembrance’ Thursday

  • A man and woman pause at the pond at the 2018 Hospice of Kona Circle of Remembrance. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the cancellation of events far and wide, organizers are going forward with the annual event, albeit in a different manner to conform with social distancing and other guidelines. (Photo from Facebook/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Hospice of Kona’s Circle of Remembrance has brought residents from all walks of life together for more than a decade to remember and honor loved ones who have died.

And, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the cancellation of events far and wide, organizers are going forward with the annual event, albeit in a different manner to conform with social distancing and other guidelines.

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“Safety during this time is so important but so is honoring and remembering and being allowed to participate,” said Hospice of Kona CEO Laura Varney.

The Circle of Remembrance has provided encouragement and hope to hundreds of residents and visitors since it was first held in 2008 at the Kona Outdoor Circle. What was created as a way for nonprofit Hospice of Kona to meet a Medicare annual memorial requirement has grown to into an opportunity for friends and family to gather to pay respect to those who have passed on — whether recently or decades ago.

Organizers for this year’s event were worried last year as the pandemic spread that the organization would have to cancel the annual event due to it being a gathering. However, their outlook changed this fall after Varney attended with her grandchildren a drive-through Halloween celebration put on by Innovations Public Charter School in Kailua-Kona.

“It was just amazing. It was amazing how it made everybody feel. They were very safe, they were spread out, and they had everything set up appropriately,” recalled Varney, who learned that many schools took the same approach. “So, i came back to the team and said, ‘I think we can make this work in a drive-through fashion and not have to cancel it.’”

The 14th annual Circle of Remembrance will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the mauka parking lot of Kona Commons in Kailua-Kona.

The re-imagined event will include a livestream program featuring inspirational readings, music and hula, a memory wall of photos, the traditional roll-call of loved ones lost and the opportunity to drop a flower in a pond to honor the deceased.

“We’re trying to create it to be similar to anyone who has attended in the past has seen,” said Varney.

Because it will be livestreamed, those uncomfortable leaving their homes will also be able to participate by visiting the nonprofit’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/hospiceofkona.

The event is free and open to the community, but Hospice of Kona is asking people to register ahead of time, and to consider donating to the nonprofit, which provides family centered support, education and care for those approaching the end of life. Hospice of Kona also operates the Maluihi Grief Center, which provides bereavement services, Nakamaru Hale, the nonprofit’s five-bed residential home, and Memory Lane Thrift Store.

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“There’s no cost (for the Circle of Remembrance) but we accept donations because our bereavement center always needs donations to keep it open so that we don’t have to charge for services,” said Varney of Maluihi Grief Center, which opened in late 2018.

For more information or to register for the Circle of Remembrance or donate, call Hospice of Kona at 324-7700. A sign-up form, along with more information, can also be found online at www.hospiceofkona.org. Vehicles can also register during Thursday’s event.

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